SMX Melbourne : How to Make Conversion Optimization Work for Your Business

webtrafficThis is a summary of the presentation given by Alan Long, from Experian Hitwise at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to make conversion optimization work for your business.


Survey of Australian Marketers

Conversion optimization is basically like product placement in a store, says Alan. In retail stores, you switch your products around, change signage etc. to see where/how they are best placed to produce the most sales. This is what Conversion Optimization is all about, but using your web site content.

Experian researched 300 Australian marketing professionals from multiple industries about conversion optimization via an independently commissioned study. The idea was to explore how Australian organizations are using online marketing channels and assess their understanding of conversion optimization.

The study showed that 2.043 billion was spent in Australia on online marketing to the end of June 2010. That’s a 13 percent increase over last year. Aussie marketers are pumping more budget into online marketing to drive higher volumes of traffic.

Are marketers missing a trick when it comes to boosting web ROI? Yes, Alan says. Lots of money being spent, but very little of that is put into converting visitors into customers or measuring success.

At the moment, site visitors are the main measure of web site success for many marketers. However, conversion is a more a valid measure of success, with conversion rates typically running at 1-5 percent. The trend in Australia is towards boosting traffic rather than reviewing site performance to drive conversion.

But, Alan says, why attract large volumes of traffic to your website if no-one is buying or doing what you wanted them to? This failure likely stems from a lack of awareness around conversion optimization and how to measure success.


Six Signs Your Business Should be Doing Conversion Optimization:

1) You have a high spend on attraction activities or advertising that drives consumers to your website.
2) You have a high spend on website content look and feel.
3) You have a large amount of online traffic.
4) There is pressure to increase profitability but you’re unsure how to measure it.
5) You’re frequently making website changes based on guesswork.
6) You’re operating in a highly competitive industry.


Warning, Scary Statistics Ahead!

Almost half of Australian online marketers surveyed spend over 40 percent of budget driving traffic to their sites. Their biggest increase in spend will be on website updates (55 percent).

Of annual budgets allocated to online marketing:

  • 17% = creative and design
  • 13.5% = content development and updates
  • 13.2% = hosting, software and licenses
  • 11.3% = usability
  • 10.4% = programming and development
  • 8.2% = SEO
  • 7.1% = analysis and measurement
  • 7.1% = conversion optimization

Despite ongoing investment in web site design and traffic generation, 90% of marketers surveyed spent less than 10 percent of their budget on persuading existing visitors to take action! (conversion optimization). You need to compliment traffic generation with a website that provides the right experience, leading visitors to the desired action, says Alan, otherwise your web site is as effective as a billboard in the desert.


Big Brands Make the Same Mistakes

It wasn’t just the small companies making the mistakes either. The study showed that large brands throw big bucks at getting traffic with conversion rates of less than 5 percent. They have large volumes of traffic, however, they continue to compete for more online traffic by investing in expensive advertising and marketing, despite low conversion rates of sales or customers – many less than 5 per cent.

By focusing on attracting more customers to your website you are competing against your peers who often use similar tactics (e.g. display, pay-per click and search engine optimization). Instead of competing with others for traffic and squandering the traffic you get, you should be competing against yourself by optimizing your site for more conversions. This is a competition you’re guaranteed to win. How much better could you be doing? Why does one change work but another doesn’t? How much impact could it have on traffic and conversions if you tweak your landing pages or checkout process?


Lack of Understanding About Conversion Optimization

There is a significant lack of understanding of conversion optimization in Australia – 89 percent do not do ANY. Most of these companies don’t have the tools or knowledge to accurately measure it, let alone act on it. Meanwhile, 62 percent of those surveyed have never even heard of conversion optimization or don’t understand what it is.

Research found that 30 percent of Australian marketers either do not evaluate the success of their website or only evaluate it on an annual basis, while 26 percent don’t know what factor/s contribute most to the success of their websites. Almost 45 percent of marketers surveyed that DO evaluate the success of their websites believe total visits/unique visitors or page views per visit are the key indicators of success. Wow.

Of those marketers that know about and conduct conversion optimization, over half have a website conversion rate of over 11 percent – double the figure claimed by respondents who have never heard of it. Marketers who are using conversion optimization are gaining competitive advantage by maximizing the engagement and sales opportunities of their sites. They understand what impacts the performance of their web site and what needs to change in order to increase sales and/or participation.


Getting started with Conversion Optimization

Conversion optimization doesn’t require significant budget or a fresh online marketing strategy to be effective. The critical factors are using web expertise to research and identify what online clients want and taking the necessary steps to build engagement, says Alan. Here are 8 ways to get started:

1. Know what your customers want.
2. Present an appropriate call to action.
3. Design your layouts & forms with users in mind.
4. Test your processes.
5. Use reviews, ratings and endorsements.
6. Use promotions and find synergies.
7. Improve navigation search and filtering functionality.
8. Increase credibility.

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Outdated Google Analytics Tracking Code Could be Costing You Thousands

Do you run an ecommerce site? Do you use Google Analytics code on your pages? Does your site contain secure pages that start with https? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you’ll probably shudder in horror when you read this.

Tom Critchlow of Distilled – a search agency in the UK – has written a guest post for the Google Analytics blog that demonstrates how using outdated Google Analytics tracking code on your secure pages can be costing you THOUSANDS of dollars.

Tom explained how he noticed a glitch on the analytics report of his client’s ecommerce site that involved users of Internet Explorer 8. These users had a significantly lower conversion and revenue rate on the site, in comparison to users of other browsers and IE versions.

Turned out Tom’s client was using the old Urchin version of the Google Analytics tracking code on every page. The old code included a call to a non-secure .js file that triggers a security warning pop-up in the Internet Explorer 8 browser.

Browsers like Chrome and Firefox don’t display a security warning but Internet Explorer 8 produces the following warning when users transition from the non-secure (http) pages to secure (https) pages on a web site.

The error looks like this:

IE 8 warning

Not surprisingly, the error was causing almost all visitors browsing with Internet Explorer 8 to abandon the shopping cart process and this was costing Tom’s client an enormous amount of revenue, estimated to be in excess of USD 150K per month.

A 5 minute fix to the site saved Tom’s client an estimated 1 million dollars per year. What was the fix? Simple. Installing the new version of the Google Analytics tracking code.

The new Analytics tracking code is asynchronous, meaning that it can track a single domain, or more complex sites with multiple subdomains, database driven pages, php pages or just top level domains.

The new tracking snippet offers:

* Faster tracking code load times for your web pages due to improved browser execution
* Enhanced data collection and accuracy
* Elimination of tracking errors from dependencies when the JavaScript hasn’t fully loaded

If you are using older versions of the Analytics tracking code, Google recommends you login to your Analytics dashboard, download the new code and transition your pages over as soon as possible.

Now you have an added incentive to transition – if you run an ecommerce site, the new code might not just save you page load time but thousands of dollars too!

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Zen and the Art of Web Site Analytics

smiling-buddhaSite analytics have always freaked me out a little.

I mean, the sheer amount of data you are presented with about your web site can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for. Or even if you DO know what to look for.

That’s why I’m a big fan of Avinash Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of the Occam’s Razor blog.

I have been avidly reading Avinash’s book Web Analytics: 2.0 for a couple of weeks now and I’m so impressed by Avinash’s writing style and the knack he has of simplifying concepts.

Take for example his definition of a Single Page Visit:

“I came. I puked. I left”

Exactly. If a visitor to your site doesn’t like or find what they’re looking for the first page they look at, it’s  highly likely they’ll simply take off. So you’d better look carefully at those pages with high bounce rates and work out what the heck is turning people away.

Avinash knows that webmasters and marketers often need to present a SWOT analysis or at least a summary of key site analytics to a range of stakeholders. He explains explicitly how to pull the crucial data out of your site analytics and present it in such a way that even the most non-tech of people can make sense of it.

I was reading his feature article in the latest Search Marketing Standard magazine yesterday and something in particular he said really stood out for me:

“Less is more. Focus on the critical few metrics rather than the insignificant many”

Often, we are so obsessed with understanding ALL the data presented by our analytics program that we forget to take a step back and think about WHY we are studying analytics in the first place. Avinash reminds us that we need to use our time wisely and look at just the few critical metrics that impact our business.

These will be different for everyone, depending on the goals of their web sites. For example, for my business, the key metrics are probably bounce rate, keywords, referrers and exit pages. As long as I review these four metrics regularly, I can be confident that I’m measuring the most important data that is influencing my online business. For a lead-generation based site, the critical metrics might be conversions, entry pages, page views and referrers.

So don’t be afraid of your analytics. Think about the main goals you’ve set for your web site, dive in to your analytics and pull out a few metrics that will help you understand why visitors are meeting/missing those goals. Then you can tweak the site based on what you’ve learned.

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Dumbass of the Week: Facebook Users

DuhOh boy, you’re going to love this one.

It all began last week when Read Write Web, (a very popular blog based here in New Zealand), published a post about Facebook’s new partnership with AOL called FB Wants to Be Your One True Login.

Apparently the post started ranking in the top Google SERPs for *facebook login*. Nothing wrong with that so far, it makes perfect sense given the post title and TrustRank the site has built up in Google.

BUT, all these strange and inappropriately angry comments with excessive use of exclamation marks began appearing on the RWW post.

Comments like this:

“When can we log in?”

“I don’t like the new facebook. Why fix something that isn’t broken. this really sucks..”

“I just want to log in to Facebook – what with the red color and all?”

“Quit this crap and let me sign in!

“All I wanted to do was LOG IN TO MY FACE BOOK ACCOUNT! I don’t like this new way! “If it an’t broke why fix it?”

“Can we log into face book? This is crazy I want to get all my info off and be done with this.”

“How do you get in?”

“I just want to get into my Facebook page.”

“This is such a mess I can’t do a thing on my facebook . The changes you have made are ridiculous,I can’t even login!!!!!I am very upset!!!”

“I was just learning,why would you mess it up?”

“All I want to do is log in, this sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN.”

RWW staff were confused at first, but then it dawned on them. Instead of bookmarking Facebook.com or entering www.facebook.com in their browser address bar like anyone with half a brain, all these commenters were apparently typing *facebook login* into Google whenever they wanted to login to Facebook and then clicking randomly on one of the results. The RWW post just happened to be the one they clicked on.

Having arrived at the Read Write Web post about Facebook, they somehow thought it WAS the *new* Facebook, despite the completely different color, design and the very clear Read Write Web heading at the top of the page. Not only did they think they were AT Facebook, but these commenters, in their hundreds, somehow managed to ignore the post itself, work out how to comment ON the post and leave their inappropriate rants about how much the hated the *new* Facebook. Except for one commenter, who claimed he liked the new design.

As the hours wore on and the page rose even higher in the Google results for *facebook login*, the comments became even more inappropriately angry and amusing:

“I WANT THE OLD FACEBOOK BACK THIS SHIT IS WACK!!!!!”

“I am going to delete my account (IF I CAN EVER LOG IN) as this SUCKS BIG TIME ! If this does not get back to NORMAL you are going to lose a lot of folks who hate this and as you can see from all the comments they think it sucks too !!! facebook was great for connecting with old friends …now, NOT SO MUCH. SO HOW DO I LOG IN?”

“Bring me back old facebook this is sheet”

“I HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK PAGE , IN FACT I HAVE STARTED TO VISIT IT LESS, BECAUSE IT IS A HASSLE”

“Who’s idea was this?? Hope he’s not too big to fire cause he just LOST a bunch of faithful users. Chances are it’ll never be the same as it was before….cya”

“I’m going back to my f*ckin space u ass holes have to f*ck up a good this !!!!! dumn asses

To add to the hilarity, a Facebook user called Laraine (bless her heart), found a new way for Facebook users to solve their *problem*:

“For those of you that want to get in face book now just go to Bing..put in face book and search (or it will pop up) hit on face book login and it takes you  to your password page…i did it…. if this ever gets back to normal I will use the address bar from now on…..”

Read Write Web added a big bold paragraph to the original post stating *This site is not Facebook* and wrote a new post addressing the issue called We’re Still Not Facebook, but they continued to be bombarded with flames. It’s a little something I like to call The Walmart Effect.

There are two morals to this story:

1) There should be some type of study done on the correlation between IQ and the use of exclamation marks.

2) You need to design your web site and your software for the lowest common denominator.

I’m reminded of Damian Conway’s fantastic presentation at Webstock Web 2.Overwhelming – 22 Ways to Frustrate Your Visitors where he amusingly drilled into us that the majority of our web site users are NOT geeks, they’re NOT tech savvy and as this example shows, Dumb User Errors (DUE) are terrifyingly commonplace.

Make your stuff embarrassingly easy to use, because Dumb Happens.

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Google Home Page Turns Minimalist

Visited Google.com lately? If so, you might have spotted something a little different about Big G’s home page.

Remember back in September when I blogged about Google increasing the size of the search box? Well it turns out that Google have been experimenting quite a bit with the layout and design of their home page, playing around with different versions of it, visible only to a handful of guinea pigs in their control group and users of a few select data-centers.

A major feature of the home page testing (and one that exists in the final launched version) is a fade-in effect where the content on the page “fades in” over a few seconds. I had noticed the fade-effect a couple of times during October and wondered if it was a glitch. TechCrunch noticed too and blogged about it quickly.

With the testing period over, Google officially launched their new home page across all datacenters and most regional Googles this month. When the page first loads, it shows only the Google logo, buttons and the search box. The remaining links appear only once the user moves the mouse over the page.

Google’s VP of Search Products Marissa Mayer says this design provides a focus on site usability:

“For the vast majority of people who come to the Google homepage, they are coming in order to search, and this clean, minimalist approach gives them just what they are looking for first and foremost. For those users who are interested in using a different application like Gmail, Google Image Search or our advertising programs, the additional links on the homepage only reveal themselves when the user moves the mouse.”

Google hopes that the minimalist page will soon become second nature to users and encourage them to use the home page features more efficiently.

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